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161. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
João Queiroz, Floyd Merrell Semiosis and pragmatism: Toward a dynamic concept of meaning
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Philosophers and social scientists of diverse orientations have suggested that the pragmatics of semiosis is germane to a dynamic account of meaning as process. Semiosis, the central focus of C. S. Peirce’s pragmatic philosophy, may hold a key to perennial problems regarding meaning. Indeed, Peirce’s thought should be deemed seminal when placed within the cognitive sciences, especially with respect to his concept of the sign. According to Peirce’s pragmatic model, semiosis is a triadic, time-bound, context-sensitive, interpreter-dependent, materially extended dynamic process. Semiosis involves inter-relatedness and inter-action between signs, their objects, acts and events in the world, and the semiotic agents who are in the process of making and taking them.
162. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Andrew Stables From semiosis to social policy: The less trodden path
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The argument moves through three stages. In the first, the case is made for accepting ‘living is semiotic engagement’ as ‘a foundational statement for a postfoundational age’. This requires a thoroughgoing rejection of mind-body substance dualism, and a problematisation of humanism. In the second, the hazardous endeavour of applying the above perspective to social policy begins with a consideration of the sine qua non(s) underpinning such an application. These are posited as unpredictability of outcomes and blurring of the human/non-human boundary. In the third stage, the case is developed for a policy orientation that is both liberal-pragmatic (with some caveats relating to ‘liberal’) and post-humanist, and the paper concludes with some speculation concerning the precise policy outcomes of such an orientation.
163. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Göran Sonesson The meaning of meaning in biology and cognitive science: A semiotic reconstruction
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The present essay aims at integrating different concepts of meaning developed in semiotics, biology, and cognitive science, in a way that permits the formulation of issues involving evolution and development. The concept of sign in semiotics, just like the notion of representation in cognitive science, have either been used too broadly, or outright rejected. My earlier work on the notions of iconicity and pictoriality has forced me to spell out the taken-forgranted meaning of the sign concept, both in the Saussurean and the Peircean tradition. My work with the evolution and development of semiotic resources such as language, gesture, and pictures has proved the need of having recourse to a more specified concept of sign. To define the sign, I take as point of departure the notion of semiotic function (by Piaget), and the notion of appresentation (by Husserl). In the first part of this essay, I compare cognitive science and semiotics, in particular as far as the parallel concepts of representation and sign are concerned. The second part is concerned with what is probably the most important attempt to integrate cognitive science and semiotics that has been presented so far, The Symbolic Species, by Terrence Deacon. I criticize Deacon’s use of notions such as iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity. I choose to separate the sign concept from the notions of iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity, which only in combination with the sign give rise to icons, indices, and symbols, but which, beyond that, have other, more elemental, uses in the world of perception. In the third part, I discuss some ideas about meaning in biosemiotics, which I show not to involve signs in the sense characterised earlier in the essay. Instead, they use meaning in the general sense of selection and organisation, which is a more elementary sense of meaning. Although I admit that there is a possible interpretation of Peirce, which could be taken to correspond to Uexküll’s idea of functional circle, and to meaning as function described by Emmeche and Hoffmeyer, I claim thatthis is a different sense of meaning than the one embodied in the sign concept. Finally, I suggest that more thresholds of meaning than proposed, for instanceby Kull, are necessary to accommodate the differences between meaning (in the broad sense) and sign (as specified in the Piaget–Husserl tradition).
164. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Andres Luure The duality of understanding and the understanding of duality in semiotics
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In the view of the author, the main problem of semiotics is the understanding and advancing of understanding. To contribute to the solution of this problem, a distinction is suggested between two types of understanding: enlogy and empathy. The subject of enlogy reduces what he understands to himself as a code: he hears only what he is himself. The subject of empathy reduces what she understands to herself as a text: she sees only what she is striving to become. Enlogy is possible due to the identity of the communicants as a present unified code. Empathy is possible due to the identity of the communicants as a future common text. Mastering the code is a by-product of empathy; the texts rests on the enlogy that already is possible. Enlogy and empathy do not pereceive each other as understanding. Therefore their mutual understanding remains the hardest problem of understanding. To fulfil its task, semiotics has to address this problem.
165. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Han-liang Chang Disaster semiotics: An alternative ‘global semiotics’?
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Thomas A. Sebeok’s global semiotics has inspired quite a few followers, noticeably Marcel Danesi, Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio. However, for all the trendiness of the word, the very concept of global should be subject to more rigorous examination, especially within today’s ecological and politico-economic contexts. With human and natural disasters precipitating on a global and almost quotidian basis, it is only appropriate for global semioticians to pay more attention to such phenomena and to contemplate, even when confined to their attics, the semiotic consequences of disasters. The paper probes into the semiotic implications of the tsunami disaster that claimed quarter of a million lives in South and Southeast Asia during the Christmas holidays in 2004, and proposes a semiotics of disaster, developed from the discussions of the eighteenth-century British Empiricist philosopher Thomas Reid and the contemporary semiotician David S. Clarke, Jr. As the word’s etymology indicates, disaster originally referred to a natural phenomenon, i.e., ‘an obnoxious planet’, and only by extension was it later used to cover man-made calamities, be it political or economic. Although the dichotomy of nature versus culture no longer holds good, the author uses theword disaster in the traditional sense by referring to ‘natural’ disasters only.
166. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Jaan Valsiner The semiotic construction of solitude: Processes of internalization and externalization
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Human beings create their private worlds of feelings and thoughts through immersion in the semiosphere created through situated activity contexts. Processes of internalization/externalization are at the center of development of human beings through the whole of their life courses. We consider the contexts of schooling as organized through Semiotic Demand Settings (SDS) for development of intrinsic motivation of the students. Intrinsic motivation is a process mechanism that operates as internalized and hyper-generalized feeling at the most central layer of internalization. It is a result of integration of social suggestions, hyper-generalized as an affective field, and turned into a value that directs future actions.
167. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Irene Machado Impact or explosion? Technological culture and the ballistic metaphor
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The term ‘impact’ has become the kind of word which, when it relates to the evaluation of technological advances in contemporary culture, suggests signs of erosion, debilitation and evasion. The misinformed and indiscriminate use of the term in the most varied of contexts has created an impasse in the cultural semiotic approach, where sign systems are viewed in terms of borders and relations. The objective of this article is to examine the trivialisation of the use of the ballistic metaphor in this explosive moment of the culture. For this, we will refer to the formulations presented by the semiotician, Juri Lotman, in his book, appropriately entitled Culture and Explosion. To what degree is the concept of explosion presented as a counterpart to the notion of impact? The desire to find answers to this question is what motivated this inquiry.
168. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Guido Ipsen From environment to culture: Aspects of continuity
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The conceptualization of the lifeworld of any species includes a reformation of the matter found in the environment into concepts which make up the species-specific Umwelt. This paper argues that the human agency in conceptualising the Umwelt necessarily transforms what we usually call “nature” into so-called “culture”. Ultimatively, this human activity has two consequences which we cannot escape, but which have an influence not only on our perception of the environment, but also on our theorising about what has been called the “nature-culture divide”, the “semiotic threshold” respectively: First, any environmental perception is at once conceived of in cultural terms. Second, whatever “nature” may be, our including it into the cultural discourse removes it from our immediate cognition.
169. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Sungdo Kim Semiotics of natural disaster discourse in post-tsunami world: A theoretical framework
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The study of natural disaster and its discursive dimensions from a semiotic perspective can provide a theoretical frame for the scientific communication of global catastrophes. In this paper I will suggest two models; one is a semiotic model on the natural catastrophic events and the other is a hexagon model composed of semiotic dimensions of natural disaster discourse. The six main modules include narration, description, explication, visualization, prevention, and recovery action.
170. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 1
Louis Armand From materiality to system
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This paper seeks to address the relation of materiality to structure and phenomena of signification or semiosis. It examines the logical consequences of several major lines of argument concerning the status of semiosis with regards to the human or broadly “organic” life-world and to the “zero degree” of base materiality — from Peirce to Lotman and Sebeok — and questions the classificatory rationale that delimits semiosis to the exclusion of a general treatment of dynamic systems. Recent investigations into neurosemiotics have provided salient arguments for the need to treat semiosis as a characteristic of systems in general, and to establish a more transverse understanding of signifiability upon the basis of what makes dynamic structures, as such, possible.
171. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Michael Rinn Naming the body of nobody: The topic of truth in Victor Klemperer’s diaries
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Victor Klemperer, German philologist and Professor at the University of Dresden, bears testimony to his survival during the Nazi years in his Diaries (1933–1945). Progressively excluded from all social life because of his Jewish religion, Klemperer is forced to recognize himself as a non-subject by the end of the war, calling himself “Nobody” in reference to Ulysses with Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Our article aims to show the mental — cognitive and corporal — process underlying this recognition. Our study will explore the two-pronged thrust of this process: faced with the inexorable destruction of his self, Klemperer has to acknowledge the limits of his analytical capacities. But this extreme experience will enable him to create somatic knowledge destined to recognize what he calls “thought of extinction”. To conclude, we show how this reasoning is based upon action language which consists in naming the body.
172. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Peeter Torop Semiotics, anthropology and the analysability of culture
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For each culture-studying discipline, the problem of culture’s analysability stems from disciplinary identity. One half of analysability consists of the culture's attitude and the ability of the discipline's methods of description and analysis to render the culture analysable. The other half of analysability is shaped by the discipline’s own adaptation to the characteristics of culture as the object of study and the development of a suitable descriptive language. The ontologisation and epistemologisation of culture as the subject of analysis is present in each culture-studying discipline or discipline complex. Culture analysts are therefore scholars with double responsibilities. Their professionalism is measured on the basis of their analytical capability and the ability to construct (imagine, define) the object of study. The analytical capability and the ability to construct the object of study also determine the parameters of analysability. Be the analyst an anthropologist or a culture semiotician, the analysability of culture depends on how the analyst chooses to conduct the dialogue between him/herself and his/her object of study.
173. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Irene Portis-Winner Eric Wolf: A semiotic exploration of power
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This paper discusses Eric Wolf’s (1923–1999) analysis of power in his last monograph, Anthropology (Wolf 1964) and last book Envisioning Power (Wolf 1999). In Anthropology, Wolf (1964: 96) wrote that the “anthropological point of vantage is that of a world culture, struggling to be born.” What is worth studying is human experience in all its variability and complexity. His aim was to set the framework bridging the humanities with anthropology. He never gave up this quest, only expanding it. In the new introduction to his 1964 monograph, thirty years later, he commented that such a synthesis had not occurred. Rather there were growing schisms in the field. In the preface to Envisioning Power, he held that human sciences were unable or unwilling to come to grips with how cultural configurationsintertwine with considerations of power. In 1990 he had addressed the American Anthropological Society, holding that anthropologists favored a view of culture without power, while other social sciences have advanced a concept of ideology without culture. He wrote that his aim in his last book was to explore the connection of ideas and power observed in streams of behavior and recorded texts. Since minds interpose a selective screen between the organism and environment, ideas have content and functions that help bring people together or divide them. While ideas compose the entire range of mental constructs, Wolf understands ideology as configurations or unified schemes to underwrite or manifest power. Power is, according to Wolf, an aspect of all relations among people. Within this framework Wolf analyzes three cases, the Kwakiutl, the Aztecs, and Nazi Germany. The comparisons are very revealing, both the wide differences and similarities in power configurations and in the role of imagination.
174. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Stefano Montes Just a foreword? Malinowski, Geertz and the anthropologist as native
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Read through semiotic analysis, the narrative intrigue of (the evenemential and cognitive dimension of) the anthropologist’s work reveals the epistemological configuration encasing some central and interrelated questions in anthropology: the communication-interaction between anthropologists and other inter-actants, their invention-application of some metalanguages and the subsequent intercultural translations of concepts and processes. To explore this configuration, I compare a foreword written by Malinowski and another one written by Geertz. In these forewords, they resort to refined stories to frame complex argumentations. In Malinowski’s foreword, two superposing stories are told: (1) a tale of a subject’s performance newly endowed with professional competences (the ethnologist) and a discipline possessing a more modern and positive knowledge (Functionalist ethnology) and (2) a symmetric tale of exchanged messages (with relative sanction and counter-sanction) between an enunciator (who has to lay the foundations of this science) and an addressee (who has to confirm the validity of messages). To lay these foundations, the enunciator implicitly proposes an epistemology based on some values (such as ‘penetration’, ‘progression’, and the‘overcoming of limits’) privileging the metaphor of space and the cumulative aspect of process. As far as Geertz’s foreword is concerned, the enunciator has recourse to two different stories: (1) one concerning the interaction between Geertz and his editor (rather than with natives) to justify his hermeneutic position and (2) another one, larger and including, concerning the reversal of causality relationships to reaffirm the value of coincidence. If in Malinowski’s foreword, stories are used to redefine some programmatic principles (‘discontinuity’ and the combination of ‘three different oxymora’) through which ethnology can be given a scientific nature and a new foundation, in Geertz’s foreword, on the contrary, value is given to ‘coincidence’ and ‘writing’ in its multiple forms and (paradoxically, for an interpretativist) a binary discursive epistemology and a style of thought privileging the nonterminative and imperfective process have been combined.
175. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Luba Jurgenson The case of Robert Antelme
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An analysis of the mnemonic mechanisms at work in the narrative of the concentration camp experience, based on the case of Robert Antelme. This survivor of the Buchenwald camp gave a first spoken version of what was to become his major work, l’Espèce humaine (The Human Species), to his friend Dionys Mascolo. Mascolo’s testimony concerning the narrative that was told to him and his reception, some time later, of the written narrative (with the transition between the two versions marked by forgetting), question the notion of loss — in particular, the loss of a “0” text which is the text of death. This postulate allows us to explore the notion of the ineffable and to reveal its cultural implications; in other words, to approach the concept of survival as a narrative category.
176. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Piret Koosa, Art Leete The ethnographer as a trader: On some metaphors in the Komi fieldwork diaries
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Collecting ethnographic items for the Estonian National Museum has been linked to the practice of buying objects during fieldwork. Often we can find metaphors or expressions connected with trading in the Komi fieldwork diaries. Comparing ethnographers with merchants is a stereotypical way of describing the activities of Estonian researchers in the field. If ethnographers use, in their diaries, metaphors and expressions connected to trading, it may be just a spontaneous phrasing or inter-textual play of words. Inside the community of Estonian ethnologists there exists some kind of discourse style, which is followed in the fieldwork diaries, more or less consciously. This style of narration is also connected to the specific social and historical context in which ethnographers act. At the same time, even satiric inter-textual quotations do not exclude the possibility that some of this discourse is related to a deeper level of human consciousness.
177. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Tiiu Jaago Critical events of the 1940s in Estonian life histories
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The article observes how critical times, conditioned by events concurrent with Soviet power and World War II, are currently reflected in life histories of newly independent Estonia. Oral history analysis comprises texts from southern Läänemaa: oral life history interview (2005), written responses to the Estonian National Museum’s questionnaire “The 1949 Deportation, Life as a Deportee” (1999) and a written life history sent to the Estonian Literary Museum’s relevant competition “One Hundred Lives of a Century” (1999). Aiming at historic context, materials from the Estonian Historical Archives and Läänemaa County Archives have been used. The treatment focuses on two issues. First, whether oral and written narratives only differ by the form of presentation or do they also convey different messages (ideologies). Secondly, whether memories and history documents solely complement each other or do they more essentially alter the imaginations obtained from the events. The public is presented with experience narratives on coping under difficult circumstances, both at practical and mental levels. Narratives are presented from a certain standpoint, pursuant to narrators’ convictions, with the main message remaining the same in different presentations. The addition of history sources enables to better observe the evolving of narrative tradition (narration rules) and highlight new questions (hidden in the narrative).
178. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Licia Taverna How do histories of survival begin? The incipit as a strategic place of the inexpressible
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I analyse here some histories of people who lived in concentration camps and told their experiences: De Gaulle Anthonioz (La Traversée de la nuit), Geoffroy (Au temps des crématoires…), Semprun (L’Écriture ou la vie). These histories represent the lives of survivors, but they are also a form of literary expression with a narrative structure that codifies a genre. More particularly, I focus the attention on the incipit, a strategic place in which some of the specific features of the global meaning and structural organization of the whole text can be seized. My hypothesis is that in histories of survival, already in the incipit, the authors strive to convey the emblematic value of their history: an extreme and traumatic experience which is difficult to express. The analysis of these incipit shows that experiences related to concentration camps, to be expressed, need an elaborated message and that an artistic aim can contribute to the representation of these experiences. From the structural viewpoint, histories of survival amplify a dichotomy existing in several literary genres and currents: ‘external reference’ and ‘internal organization’, mimetic ‘truth’ and narrative ‘structure’, ‘reality’ and ‘convention’, ‘experience’ and ‘narration’. In my opinion, histories of survival solve theseoppositions by reconciling some contraries through the use of oxymora. Even narratives structures or key figures such as the author, the narrator, the observer, the witness and so on, tend to become oxymora. The study of these features (and combination) is pertinent for anthropology (by seizing facts thanks to elaborated ‘ways of uttering’ authors often redefine forms of humanity) and for semiotics (any form of expression, even if original, has to be collectively shared and based on a system of signs). In my opinion, a joint semiotic and anthropological approach can help analysing histories of survival as a ‘literary genre’ and as a ‘historical tragic phenomenon’.
179. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Licia Taverna, Stefano Montes Foreword from the editors of this volume: On crossing perspectives
180. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 35 > Issue: 1/2
Janice Deledalle-Rhodes The relevance of C. S. Peirce for socio-semiotics
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Neither Peirce’s thought in general nor his semeiotic in particular would appear to be concerned with ‘society’ as it is generally conceived today. Moreover, Peirce rarely mentions ‘society’, preferring the term ‘community’, which his readers have often interpreted restrictively.There are two essential points to be borne in mind. In the first place, the epithet ‘social’ refers here not to the object of thought, but to its production, its mode of action and its transmission and conservation. In the second place, the term ‘community’ is not restricted to the scientific community, as is sometimes supposed. On the contrary, it refers to the ideal form of a society, which he calls ‘the unlimited community’, i. e. a group of people striving towards a common goal.Furthermore, Peirce’s semeiotic has been put in doubt as capable of providing a model for communication, the basis of social, dialogic, thought and action. The aim of the present article is to show that semeiotic, funded as it is on Peirce’s three categories, which define and delimit the ways in which man perceives and represents the phenomena, can provide a comprehensive model for the analysis of all types of communication in all social contexts.Finally, in this domain, as in others, Peirce was a forerunner, with the result that his thought has often been misunderstood or forgotten. In addition, he was pre-eminently a philosopher, thus his work has been neglected in other disciplines. The elaboration of other triadic systems, such as, notably, that of Rossi-Landi, shows that the tendency of semiotics in general is to move away from the former static, dyadic model towards that involving a triadic process. This trend, with which Peircean theory is in harmony, has been sharply accentuated in recent years, but often lacks a philosophical justification for its assumptions, which Peirce provides.